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Integration Policies in Central and Eastern Europe

The former Eastern Bloc countries still have relatively small numbers of migrants from third countries. Foreign-born residents are most prevalent in the Czech Republic at 3.8 %, whereas in Poland only 1.2 % is foreign-born (Vasileva 2011). For Hungary the figure is 4.4 %, but includes many ethnic Hungarians who resettled from neighbouring countries. Accordingly, throughout Central Europe little has been done in the design of national integration policies (Dbrohlav 2012, 196). In fact, the incipient policy initiatives in this field are largely EU-driven. Central European countries' accession to the EU pushed them to develop policies in this area, despite their scant migration figures. This has implications for the policies produced, since launching integration policies in countries where there are relatively few migrants is an abstract process, and EU policymaking applies only soft measures.

In Poland, for example, integration policies have so far been limited to asylum seekers, while other categories of migrants are covered by scattered Europeanfunded initiatives. Poland's ratification of the Geneva Convention in 1991 afforded it international recognition as a democracy; therefore, refugee protection has become the most important area of integration policies (Kicinger 2009, 91). Integration policies are being articulated in the Czech Republic too, and updated yearly, with policy initiatives stressing both the acquisition of rights by foreigners and immigrants' acquisition of the Czech language and basic civic knowledge (Barsová and Barsa 2005). Since 2009, language tests have been introduced as a requirement to obtain permanent residence status. In addition, the government has since 2011 established regional integration centres where third-country nationals and refugees can find practical support. The government explicitly mentions its reliance on European resources (e.g., the European Integration Fund) to fund these centres and their activities. Writing about Poland, Stefanska (2011) asserts that without such EU funds, integration measures would be absent.

A number of these states recently reformed their naturalization laws to facilitate the legal inclusion of migrants. In the Czech Republic, for instance, five years of legal residence presently suffices to attain Czech citizenship. This is more liberal than the naturalization laws in Poland and Hungary. In these latter countries, respectively, ten and eight years of residence is the standard requirement, while more relaxed conditions apply for spouses of nationals and refugees. A reflection of the growing importance of migration in the Czech Republic is that from 2014 forward, naturalization will no longer require relinquishing one's original nationality.

Top-down processes of policymaking such as those promoted by EU funds may lead to inconsistencies, piecemeal policymaking, and a growing need for development of a more comprehensive integration system. In Poland, introduction of a comprehensive policy is under discussion (Pawlak 2015). In the Czech Republic responsibilities for integration policymaking are being concentrated in the Department of Asylum and Migration (Čanĕk and Čižinsky 2011). In Central and Eastern Europe, overall, development of comprehensive integration policies takes place against the backdrop of the transformation of the communist regime. As any process of such deep institutional change, this transition constitutes both an opportunity for introducing new policymaking and a challenge, because brand new policies must grow in an institutional framework full of incongruities. Above all, there is a fundamental inconsistency in the logic of Central European economic and welfare institutions by which 'neo-liberal economic institutions coexist with outdated, malfunctioning distributive institutions, which are fundamentally socialist in nature' (Szelenyi and Wilk 2010, 583 in Pawlak 2015).

 
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